Oregon acquires property for restoration project

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Oregon City Council at a recent meeting approved an agreement with a church for the acquisition of a 0.343 acre of land for the Urban Runoff Capture and Otter Creek Restoration Project.
        The city acquired a portion of the property owned by The Ashland Avenue Baptist Church on Starr Avenue along Otter Creek for the project.
        The city applied for and received a $500,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for the design and construction of a storm water treatment and wetland habitat restoration project near Eastmoreland Boulevard, adjacent to Otter Creek.
        The Urban Runoff Capture and Otter Creek Restoration Project will intercept storm water from a 100 percent developed urban and commercial 43-acre watershed and route it to a newly constructed wetland system.
        The city and the Ashland Avenue Baptist Church reached an agreement for the acquisition of one third of an acre of property at 447 Shadowbrooke Drive.
        The church will execute a warranty deed for that portion of the property acquired by the city in exchange for a new access driveway being constructed off Starr Avenue.
        “This is an improvement to Otter Creek where it discharges into the lake,” Mayor Mike Seferian said at the meeting.
        Public Service Director Paul Roman said the grant also will fund a neighborhood park that will include a walking path as part of the project.
        “This property acquisition is right at the end of Old Eastmoreland Boulevard,” he said.  “If you’ve ever traveled down there, it dead ends, and you have to back up into people’s driveways to turn around. This acquisition would actually allow us to put in a U-turn at the end of the boulevard and would also allow a public access into the city parkland. When we negotiated with the church, we really just needed the property that is on the other side of the creek from them. They wanted a new drive location off Starr Avenue. The value is around $12,000. That’s pretty much the value of this corner property came out to be. They agreed we would provide a driveway in exchange for this property.”
Otter Creek
        Councilwoman Sandy Bihn asked Roman if the acquired property is actually part of Otter Creek.
        “Yes. It’s pretty much the east side of it,” said Roman. “They wanted us to not touch their trees along the west bank. And they would not allow that to be part of the purchase.”
        Bihn said when there was a cleanup in that area years ago, there was oil sheen on items removed from the creek. “If we’re acquiring this, does the city incur any liability as the responsible party? This didn’t all come up when there was an Otter Creek assessment, which was surprising to me when it was done. But it was there. It looked like it was runoff from Sun. I don’t know, but that would be my guess.”
        Roman said the city has five acres of property along Otter Creek that was once owned by Sun Oil.
         “It was zoned as parkland. It’s just been left as a green space up until now. But we wouldn’t inherit any more liability than what we already have now along Otter Creek. This purchase probably should have been done when Eastmoreland was actually built. I think they should have purchased this and had done a proper U-turn for a boulevard but they never did,” said Roman.
        “We lived on Wheeling around the corner of the boulevard, so I know this area well. I know exactly what you’re talking about. As we do the wetland project, I’m sure you’ll be very careful. But we have to be worried about what we’re digging up whenever we excavate anything along that creek bed,” said Bihn.
        “Just so you know, a lot of our work is up from the creek itself,” said Roman. “We don’t really get into the creek bed when we do our work.”
        Councilman Terry Reeves asked Roman if there was “any kind of relief from the Otter Creek overflow, or how it backs up in that area, with this new property acquisition?”
        “It really doesn’t. It will provide some relief for Otter Creek. But the whole purpose of it is to take the drainage that would have gone straight out to Otter Creek through a concrete pipe, and instead go through a wetland area to filter out sediment. The project itself is more for taking local drainage and filtering it before it goes into the creek. It is a water quality improvement for Otter Creek, but it is not a flood relief kind of project. It does provide more storage for water. But it’s more for water quality,” said Roman.
        Reeves said with recent rainfalls, the water level of the creek off Wheeling Street was “almost up to the lip of the new bridge.”
        “I am wondering if that might slow that down a little bit?” asked Reeves.
        “It would be a little. You have to keep in mind that Otter Creek is physically low. It’s in its own flood zone. It was designated by FEMA as that. I think people just don’t realize it’s so low, you’re going to get that backup no matter what,” said Roman.
        “Especially with the winds that we had,” said Reeves.
        After the meeting, Roman told The Press that the project’s design is nearly completed.
        “We’ll probably bid it out in June or July,” he said.
        A meeting with neighbors in the area is planned for the third week of May to talk about the project, he added.


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